Can Scotland achieve a low carbon transport system?

The Climate Change (Scotland) Act 2009 sets ambitious greenhouse gas emission reduction targets.  Given that transport is Scotland’s second biggest source of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 34.4% of total emissions in 2013, significant reductions in transport related emissions will have to be made to meet these targets (Scottish Government 2015a).

Progress to date

Greenhouse gas emissions from Scotland’s transport sector fell by just 2.1% between 1990 and 2013, compared with a 34.3% fall in total emissions over the same period.  The fall in transport emissions is mainly attributable to the increased fuel efficiency of new cars and the growing proportion of diesel engine vehicles.

Policies and Proposals

The Second Report on Proposals and Policies outlines the Scottish Government’s intention to almost completely decarbonise road transport by 2050 (Scottish Government 2013a).  It also sets out a number of milestones to be achieved by 2020, including the development of a mature market for low carbon cars, supported by the development of electric vehicle charging infrastructure, and a vision of at least 10% of all journeys being made by bike by 2020. The Committee on Climate Change reports on progress in meeting these milestones in its 2015 progress report (Scottish Government 2015).

Progress on the uptake of low carbon cars, increasing cycling modal share and possible future developments in these areas is outlined below.

Low carbon cars

The Scottish market for electric and hybrid electric cars is currently very small.  There were 2.496m private and light goods vehicles registered in Scotland on 31 December 2014, of which just 9,000 (0.36% of the total) were hybrid electric and 5,000 fully electric (0.2% of the total).  During 2014, a total of 217,400 new private and light goods vehicles (vans and smaller trucks) were registered in the country, of which just 2,000 (0.92% of the total) were hybrid electric and 1,600 (0.74%) fully electric.

The Scottish Government’s ‘Switched On Scotland’ policy sets out its vision for the development of a market for electric vehicles by 2050 (Scottish Government 2013b).  It identifies the period between 2015 and 2020 as one of “market growth”, with the uptake of hybrid electric and fully electric vehicles beginning to increase substantially around 2020.  The period 2016-2020 will be focussed on developing the vehicles, charging infrastructure, market conditions and consumer expectations to allow for mass uptake of such vehicles.  More information on possible future developments is set out in the International Energy Agency’s (IEA) Global EV Outlook, which examines the development of the international electric vehicle market up to 2020 (IEA 2013). 

Cycling

The Cycling Action Plan for Scotland (CAPS), first published in June 2010 (Scottish Government 2010) and updated in June 2013 (Transport Scotland 2013), sets out the Scottish Government’s vision that 10% of everyday journeys will be made by bike by 2020.  Little progress towards meeting this target has been made to date.

Scotland-wide annual modal share figures for road based transport, 2004 – 2014

Transport

Source: Transport Scotland 2014a 

As can be seen, cycling has accounted for around 1% of all trips annually over the period 2004 to 2014, although 2014 reported the highest incidence of cycling at 1.4% of all trips.  There has been no significant, sustained increase in cycle modal share since the publication of CAPS in 2010.  A more than seven-fold increase in national cycling modal share in a four year period would be unprecedented anywhere.  Given this, it seems clear that the vision of 10% of everyday trips in Scotland being made by bike by 2020 will not be met.

However, while the 10% figure may not be met at a national level, it is likely to be met in one or more local authority area.  The local authority taking the lead on cycling is the City of Edinburgh Council (CEC).  Transport Scotland figures for 2014 indicate that 11.8% of commuting trips in Edinburgh were made by bike, although these figures are subject to a fairly high margin of error (Scottish Government 2014b).  The next closest authority is Highland Council – with a cycle modal share of 6.1%.

There is a substantive body of research into the political, policy and financial commitments required to increase cycling modal share, e.g. Pucher and Buehler (2008) and the International Cycling Infrastructure Best Practice Study (Urban Movement & Phil Jones Associate 2014) .  This research identifies a number of key actions for increasing cycle modal share, including the need for strong political and official leadership, the development of segregated cycle networks, a willingness to reallocate road space from cars to bikes, and consistent and substantial budget allocations for cycling.

Alan Rehfisch

Sources:

Edinburgh Council – Transport and Environment Committee (2016) 9% Budget Commitment to Cycling. Available at – http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/download/meetings/id/50113/item_77_-_9_budget_commitment_to_cycling [Accessed 27 April 2016]

Edinburgh Council (2016a) Active Travel Action Plan 2016. Available at – http://www.edinburgh.gov.uk/downloads/file/7130/active_travel_action_plan_2016 [Accessed 27 April 2016]

Edinburgh Council (2016b) Roseburn to Leith Walk cycle link and street improvements, Overview. Available at – https://consultationhub.edinburgh.gov.uk/sfc/roseburntoleith/consult_view [Accessed 27 April 2016]

International Energy Agency (IEA) (2013) Global EV Outlook, Clean Energy Ministerial, Electric Vehicles Initiative & IEA. Available at – https://www.iea.org/publications/freepublications/publication/GlobalEVOutlook_2013.pdf [Accessed 27 April 2016]

Pucher, J. and Buehler, R. (2008) Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons from The

Netherlands, Denmark and Germany, Transport Reviews, 28:4, 495-528. Available at – http://www.vtpi.org/irresistible.pdf [Accessed 27 April 2016]

Scottish Government (2010) Cycling Action Plan for Scotland. Available at – http://www.gov.scot/Publications/2010/06/25103912/0 [Accessed 27 April 2016]

Scottish Government (2015) Scottish Greenhouse Gas Emissions 2013. Available at – http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0047/00478796.pdf [Accessed 27 April 2016]

Urban Movement and Phil Jones Associate (2014) International Cycling Infrastructure, Best Practice Study, Report for Transport for London. Available at – http://content.tfl.gov.uk/international-cycling-infrastructure-best-practice-study.pdf [Accessed 27 April 2016]

Scottish Government (2013a) Low Carbon Scotland, Meeting the Emissions Reduction Targets, 2013-2027, The Second Report on Proposals and Policies. Available at – http://www.gov.scot/Resource/0042/00426134.pdf [Accessed 27 April 2016]

Scottish Government (2013b) Switched On Scotland: A Roadmap to Widespread Adoption of Plug-in Vehicles, Transport Scotland. Available at – http://www.transport.gov.scot/sites/default/files/documents/rrd_reports/uploaded_reports/j272736/j272736.pdf [Accessed 27 April 2016]

Scottish Government (2015) Reducing emissions in Scotland, 2015 progress report. Available at – https://www.theccc.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Scotland-report-v6-WEB.pdf [Accessed 27 April 2016]

Transport Scotland (2013) Cycling Action Plan for Scotland 2013, Transport Scotland. Available at – http://www.transport.gov.scot/report/j0002-00.htm [Accessed 27 April 2016]

Transport Scotland (2014a) Table Sum1 Summary of Scottish Household Survey results, Transport and Travel in Scotland 2014, Table Sum1 Summary of Scottish Household Survey results. Available at – http://www.transport.gov.scot/statistics/j389989-10.htm [Accessed 27 April 2016]

Transport Scotland (2014b) SHS Transport: Local Area Analysis, 2014. Available at – http://www.transport.gov.scot/system/files/uploaded_content/documents/statistics/Transport%20and%20Travel%20in%20Scotland%202014%20-%20SHS%20LA%20tables%20%28For%20website%29%20-%20Final.pdf [Accessed 27 April 2016]